Are you the type to dip your conchas in café por las mananas? Or do you like them with beans and sour cream, oozing with all that sweet and salty goodness? No matter how you eat them, it’s undeniable that conchas are a quintessential part of the Mexican diet—they’re perhaps the most ubiquitous type of pan dulce, gracing the shelves of panaderias all over the US and Mexico. Instantly recognizable from their shell-like appearance (“concha” does mean “shell,” after all), conchas are a special feature at holidays like El Dia de Los Muertos and Navidad, but they’re always around for us to enjoy at any moment. And while they play a major part in the daily lives of Latinos across the country, they have a curious history that makes them taste that much sweeter.
Like many current Latin American foods, conchas can be traced back to the colonial era, when the Spanish brought some of their culinary customs across the Atlantic.
Wheat was deeply important to early Spanish settlers. Not only were wheat breads a major part of the European diet, but wheat also carried a religious connotation within their Catholic faith. Just think about misa: the ritual of the Eucharist involves the passing and consumption of a wafer, and this wafer is (and always has been) made from wheat.
In addition to the Spanish, French recipes also took root in the Americas as demand for wheat-based bread grew. The appearance of skilled French bakers in the 17th century led to the implementation of things like brioche buns, baguettes, and (por suerte) the early ancestors of panes dulces into the “New World” diet. (Fun fact: the first French military intervention in Mexico was actually called Guerra de los Pasteles, or The Pastry War.)
It is said that pan dulce is really the result of highly creative collaborations between Catholic nuns, indigenous women, and criollas innovating with the limited ingredients they had access to at the time. In fact, most panes dulces today consist of a blend of indigenous and European ingredients, (like corn flour and wheat flour). Conchas, specifically, are made from yeasted brioche dough—dough that is inherently eggy and fatty (read: ridiculously delicious).
The concha consists of two main parts: a sweet, bready base and a crunchy sugar topping.
The concha adopts the appearance of a shell by pressing a bread stamp over the topping during the final rise of the dough, right before placing it in the oven to bake. Although the bread itself is soft, airy, and delicious, it doesn’t usually bear much flavor—the topping is home to most of the taste and texture. These flavors can range from chocolate and vanilla to pink and yellow (yep, you read that right—if you’re a true concha connoisseur, you know that each color is its own flavor).
The fusion of tasty French bread and sweet, sugary toping has less obvious origins. We can’t help but wonder: can this combination be traced back to European colonists attempting to appeal more to indigenous tastes by adding extra sugar to their breads? Perhaps the cookie dough topping helped preserve the bread somehow, when preservation methods were far less advanced? Maybe it was just a matter of preference—after all, French bakers gleaned a lot from German techniques, which often involved the liberal application of streusels (a sort of cookie dough) on cakes and breads.
A version of this sugar-topped sweet bread is also found across the globe in Japan, where it is known as melonpan.
With the advent of globalization, it is, of course, quite possible that this sweet bread started with the concha in Mexico and later spread to Asia. But according to bread historian Steven L. Kaplan and culinary historian Linda Civitello, it is perhaps more likely that melonpan and conchas—despite their similarities—originated on different continents independently of one another. Civitello suggests that both iterations are, nevertheless, part of the “Iberian peninsula diaspora . . . when the Portuguese sailed east, the Spanish sailed west.”
And that’s a pretty apt suggestion: as the Spanish were invading the Americas in the early 1500s, the Portuguese likewise invaded Japan. The neighboring European countries implemented similar wheat-based bread-baking techniques, most likely using a broad range of recipes to assimilate their respective colonies to wheat, despite Japan’s indigenous preference for rice and Mexico’s preference for corn.
And although the concha has quite a long and impressive history—with generations of people knowing of its magical powers—only recently has it begun to gain traction in the upper echelon of the culinary world. Renowned bakers across the country are experimenting with its basic ingredients to yield super creative renditions. From sesame tahini to matcha green tea, there is a concha for every preference and taste.
Look, it’s no news that the world is currently undergoing a real crisis when it comes to Hot Cheetos. Not only does it seem that there are never enough, but it also seems that we cannot GET enough. From inspiring fashion ranges (like Forever 21s) to sparking all kinds of similar spin-offs in the snack and chip world, there’s no doubt that the spicy, somehow simultaneously soft and crispy treat has taken over. Which presents new problems.
One Twitter user by the name of Emily Mei says that an obsession with Hot Cheetos actually led to her being stopped and checked by TSA.
The Instagram model shared a post to her Twitter account highlighting one of the more bizarre moments involving Hot Cheetos that TSA has likely ever seen.
According to her post, last year, Mei had loaded up her luggage with 20 bags worth of Hot Cheetos to bring to friends who were having a hard time finding them in Korea. “For everyone who’s asking why i had so many bags of Hot Cheetos, apparently it’s hard to get in korea so my friends always ask me to bring it for them LOL,” she wrote in a post about the incident.
It’s not the first time Mei has opened up about her Hot Cheetos obsession and struggle.
Recently the model shared a post to her Twitter page that featured her decked out in Hot Cheetos-inspired clothes and accessories. Wearing a denim skirt and jacket with Hot Cheetos flames on them, the model shared the post and wrote “No one: Literally not a single person: Me: This is how much i love Hot Cheetos.” The Hot Cheetos-loving photoshoot also featured her wearing a Hot Cheetos bag and glasses. Ultimately the look was complete fire and I am here for a Hot Cheetos campaign featuring Mei as an advocate and spokesperson.
Over the summer she also shared images of her wearing the latest Instagram obsession: the Hot Cheetos onesie.
Mei’s outfit came directly from Forever 21 and featured a Hot Cheetos one-piece bathing suit and coin purse. TBH the look was fire and even if the hot season is cooling down for most of us this ice of continent, it’s always summer somewhere and this look is worth the travel for a similarly cute photo-op.
Feeling inspired to try a similar look? Forever 21’s Hot Cheetos line is still up and ready to give you the most fuego looks of the year.
For the cutest looks of the summer, check out Flamin Hot Cheetos Graphic Jersey which will give you all of the best vibes for your Go! Fight! Win! game days.
This jersey mesh top features an embroidered “Flamin’ Hot” design and a boxy silhouette. For just $24.90, it might saying Flamin Hot on the front but there’s no doubt your heart is stiched all over this baby.
Another Instagram shout-out to Cheetos featured Mei stacking up on and eating all of the Hot Cheetos snacks once again.
Leading up to a trip to Coachella, the model posted an image Instagram standing in the chip aisle and holding onto two giant bags of Cheetos. “Did someone say Coachella diet ….? See y’all tomorrow if i don’t die from eating all these snacks.”
Of course, it didn’t take long for others to share the many other forms of snacks that they’re willing to smuggle onto a flight.
“Reminds me of exactly a year ago when TSA had to search through one by one every single one of my airheads,” wrote @TheBMWilson.
Soon enough, Mei’s story took on a new life with users sharing the various snacks they’ve endured at TSA search for.
“I remember when they literally made me miss my flight over some Costa Rican coffee !” Wrote @sheaintyohoe
One user shared all of the snacks they tried to get onto a flight proving when it comes to snacks USA kind of is on top.
TBH there’s no denying that we’ve been at the rock bottom for some time, folks (2016 to be exact) but these bags full of snacks made in the U.S. are proof that we really do know how to hold it down when it comes to snack obsessions.
But here’s the important question: will Mei put an end to her part in the world’s Hot Cheetos obsession?